| Written by Geir Nerbø

Mining is a risky business: Being underground doesn't feel natural as it is a harsh environment for humans. As a result, safety is a top priority for mining operations because the areas feature extremes in temperatures, air quality, and impacts. Therefore, we put together another set of essential safety tips.
safe mining practice

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Mining is a risky business: Being underground doesn't feel natural as it is a harsh environment for humans. As a result, safety is a top priority for mining operations because the areas feature extremes in temperatures, air quality, and impacts.

Therefore, we put together another set of essential safety tips how to reduce the risk of accidents in mines.

Safe Mining Practice and Safety Legalisation

Mining is an essential industry that provides the raw materials necessary for numerous sectors of the global economy. However, extracting valuable resources from the Earth's crust poses inherent risks to the workers involved. Recognizing the paramount importance of safeguarding miners' well-being, North America has implemented stringent safety regulations to ensure a secure working environment. In this article, we delve into the safety implications of working in a mine and highlight specific safety laws in North America.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), a federal agency operating under the U.S. Department of Labor, plays a pivotal role in overseeing workplace safety standards in the United States. OSHA sets and enforces regulations to protect workers in various industries, including mining. In the mining sector, specific safety regulations are implemented to address the unique hazards associated with underground and surface mining operations.

One of the key safety regulations in the United States is the Mine Safety and Health Act of 1977 (MSHA). The MSHA establishes comprehensive safety guidelines for mining operations, focusing on accident prevention, health hazards, and worker training. This law covers coal and non-coal mining activities, emphasizing the importance of maintaining a safe work environment and preventing mine accidents.
Under the MSHA, mining companies are required to develop and implement mine safety and health programs tailored to their specific operations. These programs encompass risk assessments, emergency response plans, and comprehensive employee safety training. MSHA inspectors conduct regular inspections to ensure compliance with safety regulations.

In Canada, mining safety regulations are primarily governed by provincial and territorial legislation, with federal oversight provided by the Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety (CCOHS). The Mines Act, which varies by province, sets out the safety requirements for mining operations. It includes provisions related to ventilation, ground control, emergency preparedness, and the protection of workers from hazardous substances.

The province of Ontario, for example, has its own specific safety legislation for mining operations called the Occupational Health and Safety Act (OHSA). This act establishes the rights and responsibilities of employers, supervisors, and workers in Ontario's mining industry. OHSA emphasizes the importance of proactive hazard identification, risk assessment, and the implementation of control measures to mitigate workplace hazards.

Furthermore, in both the United States and Canada, mining companies are required to provide their workers with personal protective equipment (PPE) suitable for the hazards present in their work environment. This may include items such as hard hats, safety goggles, high-visibility clothing, respiratory protection, and hearing protection. Adequate training and education programs on the proper use of PPE are essential to ensure workers' safety.

While the regulatory framework in North America is robust, the mining industry continues to face safety challenges. Employers and workers must remain vigilant and committed to implementing and adhering to safety protocols to minimize risks. Regular safety audits, incident reporting systems, and ongoing safety training are crucial to fostering a safety culture within the mining sector.

It is worth noting that safety regulations evolve over time to address emerging risks and advancements in technology. Miners' safety remains a top priority, and regulatory bodies continuously work to enhance safety standards based on industry best practices and scientific research.


Safe Mining Practice: General Aspects

Mining is an industry of great importance, providing the raw materials necessary for various sectors worldwide. However, it is crucial to prioritize the safety and well-being of workers in mining operations due to the inherent risks involved. This section aims to shed light on general safety aspects when working in a mine, emphasizing the significance of a secure work environment.

  1. Comprehensive Training and Education: The foundation of a safe mining operation lies in thorough training and education for all workers. Employers should ensure that employees receive extensive training on hazard identification, risk assessment, and proper use of equipment. Regular refresher courses and safety drills should be conducted to reinforce knowledge and promote a safety-conscious culture.
  2. Adherence to Safety Protocols: Strict adherence to safety protocols is vital for the prevention of accidents and injuries. Workers must comply with established procedures and guidelines for various tasks, including the use of personal protective equipment (PPE), lockout/tagout procedures, and proper handling of machinery and tools. A culture of accountability and responsibility should be fostered, encouraging workers to prioritize safety at all times.
  3. Hazard Recognition and Reporting: Encouraging a proactive approach to hazard recognition is essential for maintaining a safe work environment. Miners should be trained to identify hazards such as unstable ground conditions, harmful gases, or machinery malfunctions. It is crucial to establish a reporting system where workers can promptly communicate any identified hazards or near-miss incidents, enabling swift corrective actions to be taken.
  4. Effective Communication: Clear and effective communication is pivotal in enhancing safety within mining operations. Employers should ensure that workers receive clear instructions and understand the potential risks associated with their tasks. Regular safety meetings and toolbox talks should be conducted to address concerns, share best practices, and facilitate open dialogue among workers (learn more about conducting toolbox talks on safety).
  5. Personal Protective Equipment (PPE): The provision and proper use of PPE are fundamental to protecting miners from various hazards. Miners should be equipped with appropriate PPE, including hard hats, safety goggles, gloves, high-visibility clothing, respiratory protection, and hearing protection, based on the specific hazards present in their work environment. Regular inspections of PPE should be conducted to ensure it is in good condition and replaced when necessary.
  6. Regular Equipment Maintenance: Regular maintenance and inspections of machinery, vehicles, and equipment are crucial for preventing accidents and breakdowns. Employers should establish maintenance schedules and ensure qualified personnel perform inspections, repairs, and replacements as needed. Workers should also be trained to identify and report any equipment defects or abnormalities promptly.
  7. Emergency Preparedness: Preparing for emergencies is paramount in the mining industry. Emergency response plans, evacuation procedures, and regular drills should be implemented and practised to ensure that workers know how to respond effectively in case of an emergency or evacuation. First aid kits and emergency communication systems should be readily available and regularly checked.
  8. Mental Health Support: The mining industry can be physically demanding and mentally challenging. Employers should prioritize the mental health and well-being of workers by providing resources and support. This may include access to counselling services, stress management programs, and promoting a supportive work environment that encourages work-life balance.

Promoting a culture of safety within the mining industry requires a collective effort from employers, employees, and regulatory bodies. By implementing these practical safety tips, mining operations can significantly reduce the risks associated with the industry, ensuring the well-being of workers and fostering a secure work environment.


Safe Mining practice tips


Ventilate toxic gases


As noxious vapours naturally happen in mines, workers can inhale these and suffer from poisoning. In addition, high concentrations of particular gases can collect, and in some instances, they can combust.

Effective ventilation systems can divert the gases and enhance airflow. More air dilutes the gases to an acceptable and breathable proportion for suitable air quality.

Knowing the signs of gas poisoning can allow you to catch leakage before it harms anyone. For instance, overexposure to carbon monoxide can cause headaches and breathlessness. In addition, gas detection devices bring more dependable monitoring.

Interested how to improve underground mining safety? Read here...


Take lifting precautions

Mining is demanding work, and strenuous activity can result in uncomfortable stresses. Especially, performing in confined spaces can require unusual positioning, and awkward stances and motions can cause injuries.

Lifting is a significant activity of miners, but doing so in an extended position can make lifting even more difficult. In addition, heaving large amounts of weight and lifting objects can put pressure on the back and neck, hampering workflow. It's also wise to ask for assistance from fellow miners to pick up bulky loads.


Account for extreme temperatures

The spectrum of temperatures that miners spend time in can inflict stress on the body. For example, gold, diamond and coal mines can drop to negative temperatures, while deep mines closer to the earth's core can climb to hot conditions.

Long work hours in an intense setting can fatigue miners, leading to heat exhaustion and dizziness. Freezing areas can also impact workers with cold-related illnesses like lack of coordination and irregular breathing. These kinds of impairment in workforce members could affect the well being of others if they didn't carry out their duties.

Hydration, sufficient coverings and periodic pauses from these conditions can lessen the risk of cold or heat stress.


Handle noise levels

Controlled detonations in quarrying resonate through the earth and originate loud sounds, and potent mining machinery also adds aspects of vibration and noise. However, suppression supports can take the noise down to a reasonable level. In addition, blast mats can absorb the energy from the discharge and help contain strong gas emissions (Related: blast mitigation techniques).

Strategic drilling can reduce tremors, especially in procedures where buffer holes are inserted in advance.


Prepare for the chance of slips and falls

Miners repeatedly stumble or fall from high places, and people can travel down meters onto hard surfaces due to long shafts.

Workers can also slip on liquid, mud or loose rock while walking, but high-traction footwear can give you a better stance on uneven ground. Sizable work boots might affect your gait, but they can keep you upright.

Toppling off ladders is another possibility, and ladder securing equipment could solve it. For example, underground mining uses fixed ladders, and safety belts and lines can draw workers back if they slip on far-reaching shafts.


Shut down old shafts

Shafts that are out of commission yet not shut can eventually cause problems. Mines need maintenance and reinforcement to uphold their structure, and without supervision, the unused shafts deteriorate.

They can act unpredictably and tumble, affecting neighbouring shafts. Gas collection can also increase the risk of explosions.

Securing deserted shafts can keep the framework, and a reliable sealing method can jam gas from entering the used passages of the mine.

Implement Rock Burst Prevention Measures

Environmental changes and human-made detonations can move rocks and dislodge large pieces from rock walls. Falling rock can hit workers and induce serious injuries, so setting up protecting systems is advantageous. For example, fastening anchors and barriers in vulnerable areas can hold back fragments to protect miners.

Stay aware of fire risks

The materials in mines raise the chance of fire, and if you're mining coal or working in a gas-rich region, this heightens your risk for disastrous scenarios.

Because underground shafts and tunnels are tightly enclosed, smoke and flames can fast become overwhelming. The compact tracks also can provoke the spread of fires.

Fire suppression devices can fight the flames, and sensors can caution workers about danger. Remaining vigilant to fire stimulants and treacherous conditions can ready workers to respond to the initial moments of the fire. Wearing fire-resistant protective gear can reduce the degree of burns, too.


Electrical safety

Electrical cords and electronics in damp mines can raise the risk of electrocution or electric shock, but preserving electrical safety can protect workers from the hazard. Grounding the system, incorporating resilient cords and protecting the connections can manage the currents.

Bundling the cords to prevent tangling and moving them out of walkways to avoid tripping is good.

Consider the potential for cave-ins

Cave-ins have been dominant in mining operations for years and can be fatal. Weighing the probability of collapses in different scenarios can grow awareness in mining crews.

While cave-ins can happen without notice, workers can methodically complete their tasks without cutting corners. In addition, compliance with mining regulations and attentiveness can keep workers from getting trapped.

Miner tracking technology for mining can also amplify safety and strengthen subsurface structures. Devices that can pinpoint liabilities early can help crews deal with the risks immediately.


Emphasize communication

Relaying information about the situations and progress of mining activities is vital. Lines of communication should be handy so workers can warn others about suspicious areas or mishaps as soon as possible.

Signs designating hazardous areas can visually convey safe zones, and clear labels can tell workers how or when to use their equipment and tools.

Further reading: Mine Safety - Why digital management?


Take advantage of professional training

After understanding the routine, workers can feel comfortable in their positions, but they can also forget essential procedures. Their caution can wane as they settle into the routine. Reminders about the rules from supervisors and coworkers can create a sense of responsibility. Refresher training courses can also help you go through the process with confidence.



Working in a mine is inherently risky due to the harsh underground environment and the unique challenges it presents. Safety is of utmost importance in mining operations, and North America has implemented strict safety regulations to protect miners. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) in the United States and provincial legislation in Canada oversee mining safety standards. Critical safety practices include comprehensive training and education, adherence to safety protocols, hazard recognition and reporting, effective communication, proper use of personal protective equipment (PPE), regular equipment maintenance, emergency preparedness, and support for mental health. By implementing these safety measures and staying updated on evolving regulations, mining operations can reduce the risk of accidents and prioritize the well-being of workers.


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Updated June 22, 2023